Guardians of the Amazon: Protect Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the fight to protect the climate and our planet.

by Diana Ruiz

April 26, 2019

This week thousands of Indigenous People in Brazil convened their annual mass mobilization to demand their rights be respected and protected.

Indigenous People gather at Acampamento Terra Livre – ATL (in English: “Free Land Camp”) happening from April 24th to 26th, 2019, this is the main and largest assembly of Indigenous leaders coming from the five regions of Brazil. The ATL has been happening for 15 years in a peaceful way, aiming to give visibility to the Indigenous fight for their constitutional rights.

On April 24, 2019 thousands of Indigenous People in Brazil convened their annual week long mass mobilization to demand their rights be respected and protected.

Brazil’s rainforests, the largest in the world, are vital to limit global climate change and under increased threat. Protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the  Amazon is critical to our climate and the survival of the planet. Studies have shown that forests are in better condition when indigenous rights are recognized and respected.

Indigenous People Protest on the first day of Acampamento Terra Livre – ATL (in English: “Free Land Camp”). Over 4.000 Indigenous People, gathered in Brasília, seeking to exchange cultural experiences and unify their resistance and fight for their rights that span across demarcation of their territories, access to health, education and the social participation for the many Indigenous Peoples living in Brazil.

This week thousands of Indigenous People in Brazil convened their annual mass mobilization to demand their rights be respected and protected. The Acampamento Terra Livre (“Free Land Camp” in English) annual mobilization has a special urgency this year as the new Brazilian Government has attacked Indigenous Peoples’ rights at an unprecedented level. There has been a suite of policies weakening environmental enforcement that encourage more forest destruction and  invasions of Indigenous Peoples’ lands for logging, mining, or clearance for cattle grazing. The new government has even transferred the authority to determine the recognition of ancestral Indigenous Peoples’ lands from the FUNAI (the Agency for Indigenous Affairs) to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Deforestation in Karipuna Indigenous Land. Through over flights in 2018 Greenpeace was able to identify areas of clearing with large number of logs in the imminence of being transported.

These policies and attitudes towards the forests and Indigenous Peoples are having an impact on the ground – land grabs, threats and violence have increased in several regions. News agencies are reporting illegal invasions into Indigenous territories by armed individuals known as “grileiros” (Portuguese term for land grabbers).

One of the groups threatened by recent land invasions is the Karipuna nation who were nearly wiped out  in the 1980s after the encounter with non-indigenous society in the 1970s for the first time. Only 4 adults and 4 children survived. Today there are an estimated 58 living members of the Karipuna.

The banner is written in both Karipuna and Portuguese and reads “No Forest No Life”. Andre Karipuna is a young leader of the Karipuna. He has been actively denouncing threats to his people and illegal invasion of their land.

André Karipuna, Indigenous leader of the Karipuna people said, “Indigenous Peoples should be respected and supported here in Brazil. Especially by the Brazilian state, and by the current government, which does not value our existence and does not acknowledge the fact that we protect our territories and our forests. But that’s not happening. Therefore, it is very important for us to receive support from people and organizations from outside Brazil. This also strengthens our own struggle”.

Greenpeace and AmazonWatch activists stand in solidarity with Indigenous People of Brazil to send a message to the government that the world is watching as they march to demand for the protection of the Amazon.

Activists from 11 cities organized solidarity events at Brazilian Embassies around the world to support the demands of Indigenous communities from Brazil. Greenpeace USA was joined by AmazonWatch and Friends of the Earth US. Many activists asked to speak with the Ambassador or representatives. In Washington DC, the Ambassador did not make himself available and instead sent a staff member to speak with activists. We shared our message to the Ambassador.

Greenpeace with Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Lands Campaigner at Friends of the Earth and Andrew Miller, Advocacy Director at AmazonWatch asked for a meeting with Ambassador Sergio Amaral.

Activists and visitors display their signs in Berlin at the Brazilian Embassy. One of the eleven solidarity events that took place in cities around the world in front of Brazilian embassies.

Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director of Greenpeace International sharedThe Guardians of the Forest meetings in Brasília this week to stand strong against forest destruction, deserve our global solidarity. Climate change is quickly becoming humanity’s biggest test. We should all stand together to protect our common future – because they too are standing for us.”

The current government has accelerated the dismantling of environmental and human rights protections. This further undermines progress to protect the rainforest. The fate of the Guardians of the Amazon is critical for all of us.

We are at a tipping point in history. The Amazon rainforest is home to thousands of Indigenous People and is a buffer to protect us from runaway climate change. The time to act is now to protect the Amazon and stand with Indigenous People that are fighting for their existence.


Join us and stand with the Guardians of the forest to save the Amazon.

Diana Ruiz

By Diana Ruiz

Diana is the Senior Palm Oil Campaigner for Greenpeace USA and is based in Washington DC, leading our work to make zero deforestation in Indonesia a reality. She has worked to make change and hold U.S. corporations accountable in countries including Indonesia, India, Peru, and Ecuador. Diana has focused on a range of issues that draw from industrial chemical systems to pesticide regulations, climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

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